Designers / Industry

How We Got Here: Bibiana Dykema and Shital Patel on the Power of Teamwork


If Bibiana Dykema, cofounder of fine jewelry brand Modern Moghul, had to choose one word to characterize her career, it would be fearless.

The courage started to show when Dykema attended architecture school at the University of Texas at Austin. There, she was one of two female students in a class of 90. In 1979 she became the first female licensed architect in Corpus Christi.

Her intrepid nature grew early on as Texas contractors and subcontractors adjusted to working with a woman architect. “I never felt that was a disadvantage. In fact, everyone knew who I was,” says Dykema, who’s known as Bibi.

She sharpened her knowledge of every facet of the job, using color, geometry, scale, and structural integrity for the success of her projects. “I became an interior designer also,” she says, “and began doing interiors for the projects we were designing. I learned to work with a team, particularly with men.”

Modern Moghul jewelry
Modern Moghul’s Laila necklace ($6,800) with cabochon amethysts and opals pairs nicely with the Joti necklace ($600) and its ruby rondels—and with the opal and diamond Binita bracelet ($8,000).

About 20 years ago, Dykema grew friendly with one couple who were her clients: Shital Patel and his wife, AV. She was working on their hotel on the Corpus Christi waterfront, and they invited her to join them on a trip to India. Dykema wanted to source some materials in India for a California architecture project—but she ended up finding much more.

“I had some gold wax beads made in Jaipur to match strands that I constantly wore,” Dykema recalls.

Sure enough, people starting asking Dykema where she found them. Dykema says she turned to Patel for help, and he suggested they start a company. So Modern Moghul was born.

“Suddenly, I found myself in the jewelry business, and we had to figure things out,” Patel says.

Patel, who now lives in India, was born in England and also lived for a while in Kenya before his family moved to the United States in 1986. While attending high school in Corpus Christi, he worked in his family’s liquor store. Then he studied chemical engineering at the University of Texas, but dropped out to join the hotel company his family now owned.

Modern Moghul necklace
The Inayat necklace (top, $5,500) has 5.62 cts. t.w. diamonds in between large pearls, and the Mahiya necklace (middle, $3,000) features a moonstone-studded bead and baroque pearls; both are set in blackened sterling silver on an adjustable silk cord.

After meeting Dykema through his hotel work, Patel was surprised to find himself involved in the jewelry industry. But he says he was able to adapt because of the varied nature of his family’s businesses.

“I love to learn new things and love challenges,” he says. “When you get into a business you are not familiar with, you have to learn how to operate the business and be successful. I love that challenge of figuring things out. One of the lessons I have learned along the way in life is that nothing worth having comes easy.”

He also discovered a love for jewelry, especially for the way it tells stories and preserves memories for younger generations. He took on the role of product photographer for Modern Moghul.

Dykema designs the Texas-based brand’s jewelry, finding inspiration from nature, gemstones, and her family. Modern Moghul’s XO collection came from the “hugs and kisses” she always wrote at the end of letters to her sons when they were off at school.

Modern Moghul bracelets
Modern Moghul bracelets include Tukada (top left, $4,500), with 9.08 cts. t.w. diamonds and 12.03 cts. t.w. square-cut rubies and emeralds; Durga (middle left, $5,000), with 102 cts. tanzanite; and Resham (right, $15,000), with 16.9 cts. diamonds.

Dykema says jewelry and architecture aren’t that disparate. She still works with a team, only this one is her production team in India. She still relies on her knowledge of color, structure, and geometry. And fearlessness is a necessary part of the equation.

“My jewelry philosophy is to create wearable pieces that can effortlessly go from day to evening. My clients are confident and stylish and want something unique to wear,” she says. “Many of our pieces are one of a kind. The love of jewelry-making is evident in each piece. Working together, we create modern art to wear.”

Top: Bibi Dykema and Shital Patel, partners in jewelry brand Modern Moghul who met when she was the architect on a hotel project of his (photos courtesy of Modern Moghul)

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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